USA

Front-runner John Kerry claimed caucus victories in Michigan and Washington State over the weekend to further cement his dominance on the Democratic presidential campaign trail. The Massachusetts senator won each state with about 50 percent of the vote and now has secured victories in 9 of 11 primaries or caucuses, losing only to John Edwards in South Carolina and Wesley Clark in Oklahoma. Kerry has twice as many delegates as his closest pursuer, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. Voters head to the polls in Virginia and Tennessee Tuesday. Wisconsin, which votes Feb. 17, is seen even by Dean as a "must win" state if his candidacy is to remain viable.

The Mars rover Spirit drilled the first hole on the red planet, possibly exposing clues to its geologic past. Scientific exploration had been delayed by a computer malfunction after Spirit's Jan. 3 landing, but now appears back on track. Spirit's rover twin, Opportunity, is examining an outcropping of bedrock on the opposite side of Mars.

President Bush said CIA director George Tenet's job was not in jeopardy in an exclusive one-hour appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday. Doubts have circulated because of the failure so far to find weapons of mass destruction, which has exposed flaws in US intelligence-gathering. Although Bush has named a commission to examine faulty prewar intelligence, he said the CIA is "ably led" and that the war effort was justified, based on Saddam Hussein's potential for WMD production.

The accused kidnapper and killer of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia was ordered held without bond in Sarasota, Fla. Joseph Smith, a mechanic with a long criminal record, was caught on a carwash surveillance camera abducting the girl, whose remains were found beside a church parking lot. Her family has called for an investigation of why Smith was free on probation despite his numerous arrests.

In a key pre-Academy Awards event, Peter Jackson was named best director for2003 by the Directors Guild of America for "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," the last installment of the fantasy trilogy. Often there is a correlation between the DGA award winner and the winner of the Oscars for best director and best picture. The Academy Awards will be presented Feb. 29.

Leaking phosphoric acid was contained after a freight train derailment near Newark, Del. Fifty people were evacuated, but no one was injured. The train was en route to Philadelphia from Richmond, Va.

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